The European Shakespeare Festivals Network was founded in March 2010 in Gdansk. In spite of the fact that William Shakespeare did not know the word “network”, and certainly the idea of having international theatre festivals showing his plays never occurred to him, he certainly knew of all the countries that are now members of the organization, for with no exception they are mentioned in his plays. These are (apart from UK) Armenia, Bohemia (now, the Czech Republic), Denmark, Germany, Hungary, Poland and Spain. Some of these countries were even visited by the English strolling players in the early seventeenth century, and Shakespeare’s plays were performed there during his own lifetime. The Bard would undoubtedly be pleased with the appearance of a strong group of international promoters, but at the same time he would be surprised to see the scale of his popularity in today’s world, in millions of copies of critical editions of his dramas appearing every year, complemented by hundreds, if not thousands, of theatre productions around the world.
It is indeed difficult to follow what is going on in “Shakespeare industry”, and which of the sundry productions are worth seeing. This prompted us to start a new organization, which would catch the important and stimulating productions into the net of verifiable criteria and critical experience. Thus, the network (ESFN) came into being, and aims not only at promoting the works of William Shakespeare or exchange of information, but also at producing new and innovative interpretations of the plays and at enhancing various educational programmes. We intend to support new translations and academic research, to create a genuine network of artistic and educational exchange.
To date, we have co-organized and participated in a number of international events, such as Beyond the Stage – New Trends in European Theatre (2009-10), Shake-in the City. The Art of Inclusion (2010-2011), and we co-organised the tour of Miranda (based on The Tempest), directed by Oskaras Koršunovas, which premiered in Hungary and Poland in the summer of 2011. Similarly, we are contributing to the premiere of The Tempest by Silviu Purcarete in 2012. We aim to develop the network, recently HamletScenen from Denmark, based in Kronborg - the castle of Hamlet expressed their interest to join us.
In spite of the fact that we carry the European label, in the name of our organization, we are open to establish permanent links and various forms of cooperation with institutions that are “beyond the sea” – as Shakespeare would put it. So far, we have established a fruitful cooperation with the Chicago Shakespeare Theater, to give just one example, but we are still in an early phase and it seems that this is just the beginning of a larger scale of operations.
And we are sure that the Muses will approve.